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Galway as a Key Regional Driver

The WDC recently presented to Galway Chamber (presentation available here), noting some of the work they have recently undertaken and highlighting some policy implications for the Region as well as the city.

Galway – which Galway?!

Galway city and its reach goes well beyond the city boundary, but measuring this is complicated. In part because there are different measures depending on the role performed by the city, for example as a centre of excellence for health it has an extensive regional remit. More recently there is consideration of the Galway Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan (MASP) as part of Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework.

Travel to Work Areas

Another way of examining the impact and influence of Galway is examining its labour catchment. The WDC has analysed labour catchments, based on Travel to Work Areas, which in turn are based on the commuting patterns of workers resident in the Western Region. The WDC first undertook this exercise based on Census 2006 data and has completed the same analysis 10 years later with the most recent Census in 2016. This provides useful trend data, which shows a growth in the size of the Galway city labour catchment over the period. The Galway city labour catchment and the extent of commuting to the city highlights the extensive reach of the city across the entire county and beyond into parts of Galway and Mayo.

Highlights from 2016 Census

The recent Census data shows that between 2011 and 2016 the number of people living in Galway city grew by over 4% (4.2%), and by 2.4% in County Galway. Both the city and county had much higher population increases than anywhere else across the Western Region, (Mayo and Donegal recorded slight declines).

When examining the socio-economic profile of residents, the figures for Galway city are generally very similar to the state average, for example, in terms of the employment (53.4%) and unemployment rates (7.9%) and the share not economically active (38%) the Galway city figures and the State are the same.

NPF and RSES

There was a discussion on the National Planning Framework and the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan. While the NPF is to be a move away from ‘business as usual’, from a regional perspective the focus is on the five cities. A concern is implementation and the importance of sectoral policy as an instrument of change for both capital & current spending. Sectoral polices need to be aligned to support the move ‘away from business as usual’. However, there is little evidence of this in the NPF, so for example, policies such as the National Aviation Policy devised well before the NPF now need to be reviewed to support the regional population and employment targets.

On the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan, while the WDC welcomes regional population targets there needs to be more commitments to help deliver. There is much potential in the regional centres but there needs to be better links and investment, however much of this is at the back end of the programme rather than being front loaded. As we know from previous spatial planning exercises (e.g. National Spatial Strategy), implementation is key. What happens if priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with RSES?

Policy implications for Galway

Better intra-regional transport links e.g. M18 have extended labour catchments & opened up new opportunities, for example there is now more commuting for work between Galway, Ennis, Shannon and Limerick. This can be a key asset for large employers looking to access the skills they need. The Galway-Ennis-Shannon- Limerick may currently be the most cohesive element of the Atlantic Economic Corridor and it illustrates how good transport links are critical.

Employment and good job opportunities are important in ensuring skilled people will stay in the region and Galway needs to attract new and dynamic enterprises. Employment is very important but Galway as a place to live is equally, if not more important. Place of residence is usually more stable than place of employment, therefore retaining the good quality of life available in Galway and improving on it should also be a policy priority.

Galway City and Chambers city Regions Conference

The idea of the regional cities working together more cohesively was a key theme discussed at the conference on urban development hosted by the Chambers of Commerce in the five cities – Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, held in NUI Galway on 28th March. The conference, entitled ‘Ireland’s Cities – Powerhouses of Regional Growth’, explored how Ireland’s five cities can fulfill the goals of economic development for their regions set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Project Ireland 2040.

The Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD, opened the conference and welcomed the initiative, pointing to the opportunities for urban growth and regeneration without urban sprawl. John Moran, Chair of the Land Development Agency pointed to the opportunities for the four regional cities to work together to create a counterbalance to the East and to combine capacities to create more opportunities. Other speakers included Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority.  John O’Regan, Director of AECOM discussed the results of their Survey on Our Cities’ Infrastructure Needs and Dr. Patrick Collins from NUI Galway discussed a Vision for Galway as an example of urban regeneration highlighting issues and opportunities. The presentations will be made available on the Galway Chamber website shortly.

 

Deirdre Frost

Hospitality plays a larger role in employment & enterprise in the Western Region

The WDC has just published its latest Regional Sectoral Profile which examines the region’s fifth largest employment sector – Accommodation & Food Service.  Both the detailed report ‘Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profileand a two-page summaryWDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region’ can be downloaded here

Accommodation & Food Service includes all those working in hotels, guesthouses, pubs, clubs, restaurants, takeaways, coffee shops, catering companies and mobile food / coffee vans.  Essentially it is the hospitality industry.  The Western Region is home to 19.7% of everyone working in hospitality in Ireland and 23.7% of all of the sector’s enterprises.

Accommodation & Food Service as a share of total employment 

According to Census 2016, 23,038 people were employed in Accommodation & Food Service in the Western Region.  It plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1) accounting for 6.9% of total employment compared with 5.8%.  Among western counties, it is most important in Galway City at 9.9%, followed by Donegal and Mayo.  These three counties are among the top five in Ireland in terms of the share of their workforce engaged in hospitality.  Roscommon has the lowest share in the region and is fourth lowest in the state.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

At 27.6% of total employment, Clifden has the highest share working in hospitality of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population) with Bundoran (21.7%), Westport (21.1%), Donegal town (20.3%) and Carrick-on-Shannon (15%) also among the top 10 towns in Ireland.   At under 6%, Ballyhaunis, Ballymote and Boyle have the lowest shares working in the sector in the region.

Employment by gender 

Hospitality is a more important employer for women than men (Fig. 2) with 8.2% of all working women and 5.8% of all working men in the Western Region working in the sector.  The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally, most notably for women.

Galway City, Donegal and Mayo are where hospitality is most important for female employment employing close to 1 in 10 of all women.  In the case of Donegal and Mayo the sector is considerably more important for women’s jobs than men’s.  Galway City is the only area where hospitality is more important to male than female employment however the shares are quite similar indicating the sector is more gender-balanced, as it also seems to be in Sligo.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total male and total female employment that is in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Self-employment in Accommodation & Food Service

14.1% (3,237 people) of people working in the sector are self-employed (employer or own account worker). The Western Region has a considerably higher incidence of self-employment than the national average (11.5%).  This could indicate that hospitality operations in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale with fewer employees and that owner-manager/family-run businesses are more common.  The extent of self-employment declined between 2011 and 2016, most strongly in more rural counties.

Accommodation & Food Service Enterprises

In 2016 there were 4,358 Accommodation & Food Service enterprises registered in the Western Region which was 23.7% of all such enterprises in the state.  This is the sector where the region accounts for its highest share of all enterprises nationally.

Hospitality accounted for 10.2% of all business economy[1] enterprises registered in the Western Region 2016.  Donegal, Leitrim and Mayo have the highest share of enterprises in the sector at 11+% showing the importance of the sector in their overall enterprise profile.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Hospitality Sector

Accommodation & Food Service plays a larger role than nationally in the Western Region’s economy, in terms of its employment profile and enterprise base.  Any changes in demand for this sector e.g. from Brexit, an economic downturn, will have a particularly large impact on the region and national policy needs to address issues specific to the region such as improved accessibility for visitors and the viability of rural hospitality businesses relying on local demand.

As it is quite widely distributed, hospitality helps to sustain the regional and rural economy and is becoming an increasingly important reason for people to visit town centres. Therefore it is a critical element in town centre renewal efforts.  It is also an important source of jobs for those with lower skills or limited experience, whose rights need to be protected, as well as providing highly skilled occupations and considerable opportunities for entrepreneurship.  Self-employment, while still higher in the region than elsewhere, is declining and it is important to support and encourage self-employment to maintain the diversity of the region’s hospitality offering.

Hospitality is highly sensitive to changing economic conditions which influence both the level of disposable income of local residents and overseas and domestic tourism activity. The balance between local and tourist demand in sustaining the hospitality sector varies considerably across the region (from tourism ‘hotspots’ to small rural towns depending on local custom) and policy aimed at strengthening the sector needs to be tailored to the specific circumstances of different areas.  Rural and border counties are particularly exposed to Brexit while the sector as a whole needs to adapt to emerging trends e.g. Airbnb, changing demographics, low carbon economy.

Download Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service sector in the Western Region here

The report also examines data on overseas and domestic tourism revenue and numbers to the Western Region, which will be the subject of a future post.

 

Pauline White

[1] Business economy includes all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Education, Health & Social Work and Other Services.

Industry’s role in total ‘agency assisted’ jobs declining nationally but remains highly stable in Western Region

In a recent post I outlined some of the main findings from our analysis of Census employment data on the Industry sector in the Western Region.   Our recent report ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ also examined agency assisted Industry jobs and they are the subject of this post.

Each year the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI) (and formerly Forfás) conducts a survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received assistance from IDA, EI or Udarás na Gaeltachta.  This is published as the Annual Employment Survey (AES) and these firms are referred to as ‘agency assisted’.  They are limited to Industry or International Services firms currently or with the potential to export.  For Industry this would include most enterprises.   Unlike Census data, which is based on where a person lives, AES data is based on where the company is located, so is the location of the job, even if the person travels from another county.

Agency assisted jobs in Industry in the Western Region

The latest AES data is from 2017 when there were 49,435 agency assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region.  From a low of 38,000 in 2010, assisted Industry jobs have grown steadily, accelerating since 2013.

Of total assisted Industry jobs in the region, 87.6% are Permanent Full Time (PFT) with the rest ‘Other Jobs’ (temporary, part-time or contract).  The share of PFT jobs in the region is lower than nationally (89.5%) indicating that other forms of employment are more common in the region’s industrial sector.   The share of jobs that are PFT declined over the decade from 92.2% in the state and 90% in the region in 2008 indicating a rising prevalence of other forms of employment.  Every western county, except Donegal, had a lower share of PFT assisted Industry jobs in 2017 than a decade earlier.

Industry’s share of total assisted jobs

In the Western Region, the share of total assisted jobs (Industry + International Services) accounted for by Industry has remained extremely stable at around three-quarters over the past decade (Fig. 1). This contrasts strongly with a steady decline nationally from 64.2% in 2008 to 55.6% by 2017.  International services account for a far higher and growing share of assisted jobs nationally than in the region, where Industry continues to play a greater role.

Due to confidentiality reasons, data on assisted jobs at county level is combined for Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.  In 2017, this is where Industry accounts for its highest share of assisted jobs (88.6%). There has been a considerable increase in Industry’s importance, partly due to substantial job losses in international services over this period.[1]  Mayo has the next highest share (87.3% in 2017) in Industry with a number of significant Irish and multinational manufacturing plants but limited international services activity.

In Galway, Industry’s share declined markedly between 2009 and 2012 but has remained relatively steady since as its growth in Industry and international services jobs has been similar (29.2% in Industry and 25.2% in international services during 2012-2017). While there has been fluctuation in the relative importance of Industry in Clare, by 2017 73% of Clare’s assisted jobs were in Industry, the same share as a decade earlier.  Industry’s role in Donegal declined throughout the period, partly due to very strong growth in international services as well as manufacturing job losses.  At 61.8% Donegal has the lowest share of Industry jobs in the region but is still above the state average.

Fig. 1: Industry as a percentage of total assisted jobs in Western Region and state, 2008-2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run. Note: For ease of interpretation the vertical axis starts at 50%.

Assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors

MedTech dominates assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region (Fig. 2) accounting for 29.7% of all such jobs in the region compared with 13.3% nationally.  For the country as a whole, Agri-food is by far the largest assisted Industry sector.  As well as Agri-food, the region also has a notably lower share involved in the high-tech Chemicals & Pharma and Computer & Electronic sectors.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Industry in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

During 2012-2017 the region performed considerably better than nationally in the region’s three strongest growing sub-sectors (Fig. 3).  Valeo in Tuam would be a key factor in the strong growth in Transport Equipment, while recovery in the building industry drove the next highest growing sub-sectors.  In many other sub-sectors, jobs growth in the region was relatively similar to the national experience.  It did have a notably stronger performance in Clothing & Textiles while there was a decline in Mining & Quarrying jobs in the Western Region compared with growth nationally.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors in Western Region and state, 2012-2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

Assisted Industry jobs by ownership

Of total assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region in 2017, 55.1% (27,214) were in foreign owned companies, higher than the 45.3% share nationally.

During the early years of the recession (2008-2012), the share in foreign ownership increased substantially (from 52.7% to 55.8%) due to large job losses in predominantly Irish owned sectors supplying construction, as well as jobs recovery beginning earlier in the foreign owned sector, strongly influenced by the performance of MedTech.  While jobs growth has extended more widely in the Irish owned sector, the share jobs in foreign ownership remains at a higher level than pre-recession.  Foreign ownership is not only more important to Industry in the Western Region, but the recession further strengthened its role.

The ownership pattern differs across Industry sub-sectors.  At 96.8% of assisted jobs in foreign ownership MedTech is very heavily reliant on FDI companies with large employers such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbot.  Transport Equipment, which has shown strong jobs growth, has the next highest level of foreign ownership at 84.4%.

In terms of Irish ownership, all assisted jobs in Mining & Quarrying and practically all (98.2%) in Clothing & Textiles, is in Irish owned firms.  For Clothing & Textiles, the loss of previous foreign owned jobs in the sector e.g. Fruit of the Loom in Donegal, and the changing character of the sector to focus on high value, hand crafted products e.g. Magees of Donegal, Foxford Woollen Mills, means it is now largely an indigenous industry.  Agri-food has the next highest level of Irish ownership at 85% of assisted jobs.

Conclusion

Industry plays a considerably more significant role in agency assisted employment in the Western Region accounting for 3 in 4 of all assisted jobs.  While Industry’s share is declining nationally, it is highly stable in the region with its strong Life Sciences cluster a contributing factor.

While Industry’s share of assisted jobs has remained highly stable, there have been many changes within the sector over the past decade including a growing share of non-permanent jobs and the increased significance of foreign owned employment.

Greater diversity in the industrial profile of a region increases its resilience and capacity to withstand external shocks.  The region’s greater reliance on foreign ownership and the dominant role of Life Sciences (while a key regional asset) could increase the region’s exposure to risk.  There needs to be a strong policy focus on further embedding existing regional strengths while also developing new areas of growth e.g. Energy, Transport Equipment, advanced engineering, to further diversify the region’s industrial profile and increase its resilience.

More detailed analysis of agency assisted employment in Industry in the Western Region is provided in Section 3 of ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’.

Pauline White

[1] The numbers employed at the former MBNA (now Avantcard) call centre in Carrick-on-Shannon reduced substantially over this period, as well as a number of call centre closures in Sligo.

WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Southern Region

This week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Southern Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously (available here) to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document.

County Clare is the only county within the Southern Assembly region that is also under the remit of the Western Development Commission, therefore this submission largely focuses on the questions as they pertain to County Clare.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

Role of Ennis

Apart from Ennis being a key economic and residential centre, Ennis is the county capital and link to rural parts of County Clare. This role is clearly evident in the extent of the Ennis labour catchment which extends across much of the County, with the exception of the Kilrush labour catchment to the south west of the county and the Shannon labour catchment to the south, see Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region (WDC 2018) here. This role should be maintained and harnessed to support the growth and development of Rural County Clare.

Our Region’s Economic Engines

Discussion of ‘achieving convergence between where people live and work’ needs to recognise the opportunity of remote working, either for people to work from home or a hub located close to their home.  It also needs to be recognised that job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas is another route to such convergence and pursing such convergence should not solely focus on building more houses in cities and other large urban centres.

Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick (GESL) Economic Network

The Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick Economic Network is actually a segment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor. It may currently be the most cohesive segment, given the proximity and strong ties between the centres, especially Limerick-Shannon and Ennis centres, with increasing economic activity between Galway, Ennis and Limerick supported by recent investments in improved transport connectivity especially the M18. This network can help support regional growth in both the Southern and Northern and Western Regions. In addition this segment of the network can point to how to improve and develop the cohesiveness of the broader Atlantic Economic Corridor.

Shannon Airport

The role of Shannon Airport needs to be further supported and enhanced. Though the National Aviation Policy (2015) does recognise the key role of Shannon Airport, the policy was developed well before the National Planning Framework which attempts to redirect growth away from ‘business as usual’.  However since then, there is ever greater concentration of international traffic at Dublin Airport. The RSES should advocate for a revised National Aviation Policy so as to fully support the regional population and employment targets. In the absence of a change in policy it is not clear how the Airports and Ports in the Southern Region can realise a stable or ideally a growing share of traffic.

 Limerick-Shannon MASP

The Limerick-Shannon MASP is different to others in that it is connecting two separate urban centres, albeit economically interdependent urban centres. As Limerick is the larger centre there is understandably much focus on it. The focus is also on connecting Limerick and Shannon Airport/Free Zone. The development and transport requirements of Shannon town itself should also be prioritised, to promote Shannon as an attractive place to live as well as work.

The full submission is available here.

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 March) the SRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

 

Deirdre Frost

How important is Industry as a regional employer?

We’ve just published the fourth of our ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data on specific economic sectors. The latest report examines Industry which is the Western Region’s largest employment sector, with 45,754 working in it.  Industry includes mining, utilities and waste management but by far the largest element is manufacturing.  Three publications are available:

Trends in Industry employment in the Western Region and its counties

Industry’s share of total employment has changed considerably over the past two decades (Fig. 1).  Ireland’s move to a more service-based economy, with substantial losses of traditional, lower skilled Industry and a growing focus on high value, high-tech manufacturing, has substantially changed the significance and nature of industrial activity in Ireland and the region.

In 1996 21% of total employment in the Western Region was in Industry, the share declined in every Census to a low point of 13% in 2011, increasing somewhat to 13.7% by 2016.  The state showed a similar pattern declining from 20.4% in 1996 to 11.4% by 2016.  While both region and state followed similar patterns, the gap between them widened over the period so that in 2016 Industry was notably more important as an employer in the Western Region.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Industry in Western Region and state, 1996-2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census of Population 2006, Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713; CSO, Census of Population 2002, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table B0513; CSO, Census of Population 1996, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table  A0513

At a county level, the most dramatic change occurred in Donegal; from over 1 in 4 working in Industry in 1996 to less than 1 in 10 twenty years later.  Donegal’s economy has been dramatically restructured, with a strong shift from manufacturing to services.  At just 9.2% of all employment, Donegal has the smallest share working in Industry in Ireland, outside of Dublin.

In 1996, Clare had the second highest share in the region working in Industry, largely due to the Shannon Free Zone. With the dramatic decline in Donegal, Clare had the region’s highest share for much of the period but was overtaken by Galway County in 2016.  From having the region’s second lowest share in 1996, Galway County now has the highest share working in Industry in the region at 16.3%.  Industry is the single largest employment sector for Galway County, Galway City and Clare.

At town level, Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo has the highest share of its employment in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities, where it accounts for 41.9% of total employment.  Shannon in Co Clare is fourth highest nationally at 31.9% with Tuam also in the top 10 towns at 25%.  The region is also home to the two towns in Ireland with the lowest shares working in Industry in Bundoran (3.5%) and Carndonagh (4.9%), both in Co Donegal.  It must be noted that this refers to the town where a person lives though they may work elsewhere.

Employment in Industry sub-sectors in the Western Region

The Medical & Dental Instruments (MedTech) sector is by far the largest industrial activity in the Western Region accounting for 27.7% of the region’s total Industry employment (Fig. 2), more than twice the national average (12.1%).

The region’s second largest (14.1%) is Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Rubber & Plastics (Chemicals & Pharma) which is the largest in the country (18.4%).  The manufacture of pharmaceuticals is the main activity.

Food, Drink & Tobacco (Agri-food) is the region’s third largest sub-sector with meat processing, bakery/confectionary, seafood and beverages the main activities. Agri-food’s share of industrial employment in the region (11.2%) is considerably smaller than nationally (17.1%). This is partly due to the strong concentration of such activity in the other regions and the nature of the Western Region’s farming.

There are differences across counties in the relative importance of the sub-sectors. For Galway City, Galway County and Leitrim, the MedTech sector is the largest industrial employer.  For Sligo and Mayo, it is Chemicals & Pharma, while for Donegal and Roscommon Agri-food is largest.  Computer & Electronic Equipment is Clare’s main industrial employer. Further detail on the industrial profile of the western counties can be found here.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total Industry employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Transport Equipment experienced the largest percentage growth in employment in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016, increasing by 52.7% (+451 people).  The region had far greater growth than nationally (15.5%). This sector includes companies such as Valeo Vision Systems in Tuam, Mirror Controls International in Leitrim, McHale Engineering in Mayo and Lufthansa Technik Turbine in Clare.

The next highest growth was in the region’s largest sub-sector, MedTech where employment grew by 30.2% (+2,935 people), followed by Computer & Electronic (21.2%, +633 people).  Very strong growth in these three high-tech manufacturing sectors contributed substantially to the region’s stronger than average performance, with total Industry employment growing by 13.7% compared with 9.4% in the country as a whole.

Key Policy Issues

Industry plays a considerably greater role in the region’s economy and labour market than nationally.  Its performance, and future trends in manufacturing, will have a greater impact in the region.  Given the growing role of services nationally, and increasing policy focus on attracting and growing international services, it is vital that manufacturing’s central role in the Western Region’s economy is fully recognised and supported in policy decisions.  There also needs to be a strong focus on developing new growth areas to increase industrial diversification.

The region has a higher reliance on foreign owned firms.  Global developments which impact on the extent and nature of foreign owned investment in Ireland would have very significant knock-on impacts on the regional economy, not only for direct jobs in foreign owned manufacturing, but also Irish owned sub-suppliers.

Digital transformation poses a threat to certain jobs but also creates new occupations and activities.  Manufacturing has already evolved substantially and adopted many digital technologies.  Processing and operations jobs, especially manual work e.g. packing, are now most at risk from automation.  Upskilling of the current industrial workforce should be a key regional priority.

The nature of work and skills needs are changing.  The share of jobs that are permanent full-time is declining and it is important that policy adapts to ensure that the rights and obligations of individuals and employers are clearly outlined and protected, for example in relation to training and upskilling. Industry’s skill needs are changing with areas of current demand including science and engineering, craft skills and operatives with digital skills.  As Ireland’s manufacturing sector continues to evolve there will be growing demand for STEM qualifications.

The Western Region is a global location for MedTech. The cluster includes multinationals and Irish start-ups supported by a strong skills base and research infrastructure. Life Sciences, including MedTech and Chemicals & Pharma, is present in all counties but strongest in Galway, Sligo and Mayo. It is a key regional asset but its dominant role presents some risk. Opportunities for convergence with other sectors and dissemination of its expertise should be supported to promote industrial diversification.

Activities which rely on domestic demand or the UK market face challenges. These sectors play a larger role in rural counties, have high levels of Irish SME activity and are important for male employment.  Manual tasks are vulnerable to automation and Brexit presents a threat, especially for Agri-food.  Improving the competitiveness, as well as market and product diversification, of such firms will be important to sustaining the regional and rural economy.

The region has an emerging strength in Transport Equipment. For Galway County, Mayo and Roscommon it was the strongest growing sector and Leitrim has the highest share in the country.  Many of the companies are located in medium-sized or small towns and opportunities to further embed and strengthen this emerging cluster should be supported.

For more detailed analysis see ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Data on agency assisted jobs in Industry in also analysed in the report, and will be the topic of a future blog post.

Pauline White

Give your view on the development of the Northern and Western Region- make a submission on the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy

Just a reminder that the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) is currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 8th February 2019.

The National Planning Framework (NPF) published last year, provides a framework for development and investment over the coming years. Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, it was published with its companion, the National Development Plan (NDP), a 10 year strategy for public investment.

The NPF is a framework for the development needed to underpin population growth in Ireland of up to 1 million people (by 2040) with approximately 50% of this growth to be in the five main cities.  The Framework is underpinned by 10 National Strategic Outcomes and, central to it, is the concept of Compact Growth identifying where new growth can take place within the existing envelope of our Cities, Towns and villages.

The primary vehicle for delivering the NPF is through the implementation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each of the three NUTS 2 Regions shown on the map below.  The Assembly in each of these Regions (the Northern and Western Region, the Southern Region  and the Eastern and Midlands Region) has a draft RSES currently under consultation.

The NWRA, through the RSES, aims to provide regional level strategic planning and economic policy in support of the implementation of the National Planning Framework and provide a greater level of focus around the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes in the Region.  The challenge for the NWRA was to take the high-level framework and principles of the NPF and work out more detail at regional and local authority levels.  This NWRA RSES introduces the concept of a Growth Framework with ‘Five Growth Ambitions’ defining the priorities for the Region and how they are mutually intertwined. The five are:

  • Growth Ambition 1: Economy & Employment – Vibrant Region
  • Growth Ambition 2: Environment – Natural Heritage
  • Growth Ambition 3: Connectivity – Connected Region
  • Growth Ambition 4: Quality of Life
  • Growth Ambition 5: Infrastructure – Enabling Our Region

The draft NWRA Strategy can be viewed or downloaded here.

Written submissions or observations with respect to the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and the accompanying reports may be made between 19th November 2018 and 5pm on 8th February 2019 (both dates inclusive) through one of the following media:

On Line: Completing the RSES Web Submission Form available here.

Email: rses@nwra.ie

Mail: ‘RSES Submissions’, NWRA, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. F45 W674

The focus of this post has been on the NWRA RSES.  In a future post we will outline key elements of the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  (consultation closing date is 8th March 2019).  The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly Draft RSES is also currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 23rd January 2019.

 

Helen McHenry

The Education Sector in the Western Region

The WDC recently published the third in our ongoing series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Education Sector, the Western Region’s fourth largest employer.

The full report ‘The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Education Sector in the Western Region’, which summarises the key points, can be downloaded here

The Education sector plays a vital role in society, educating our young people, providing lifelong learning and personal development opportunities, as well as the necessary skills for the economy. It includes all those working in public, private or community/voluntary pre-primary, primary and secondary schools (e.g. teachers, support staff) as well as staff of further and higher education institutions and colleges. The sector also includes other types of educational activity such as music schools, adult education and driving schools.  Discussions of the Education sector generally focus on provision of services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in the Education Sector

A few of the key findings from the report on employment and enterprise in the sector include:

  • 32,349 people were employed in the Education sector in the Western Region in 2016. Education plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally, accounting for 9.7% of total employment compared with 8.8%.
  • Education is most important in Donegal (10.8% of all employment), followed by Galway County (10.2%). These are the highest shares working in Education in the country.
  • Moycullen in Co Galway (19%) has the highest share of residents working in Education across Ireland’s 200 towns and cities. The towns with the next largest shares in the region are Bearna (13.3%), Strandhill (12.2%) and Carndonagh (11.9%). It must be noted that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere e.g. NUI Galway, IT Sligo.
  • The number of people working in Education in the Western Region grew by 4.4% (2011-2016), weaker growth than the sector nationally (5.7%) and also weaker than total employment growth in the region (7.5%).
  • At 32.2% and 25% of total Education employment respectively, ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ are the two largest Education sub-sectors, with a higher share working in both in the region than nationally. In contrast the region has a lower share working in ‘Higher Education’ (15.2% v 16.8%).
  • ‘Pre-primary Education’ saw the strongest jobs growth, +44.8% in the region (2011-2016) largely driven by introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme providing a free pre-school place to all children.
  • 7% of all working women and 4.4% of all working men in the Western Region work in Education. The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally.
  • In 2016 there were 2,710 Education enterprises registered in the Western Region. Education enterprises account for 5% of all enterprises in the region, above the 4.4% share nationally.  Sligo is where the sector accounts for the largest share of enterprises (5.5%) with Clare and Galway next highest (5.2%).

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Education Sector

  • Higher reliance on the Education sector in the Western Region: Education is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally and plays a critical role in providing professional career opportunities, including in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. While the main focus for Education policy must be the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel employment role should also be a factor in policy decisions.
  • Central role in female employment: 3 out of 4 people working in the Education sector in the Western Region are women. Galway City has the lowest female share, and Roscommon and Leitrim have the highest, indicating that Higher Education has lower female involvement than other Education sub-sectors. Any future development in Education will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.
  • Demographic Factors: The most recent projections from the Department of Education and Skills indicate that primary school enrolments peaked in 2018, while for second level education the numbers are projected to peak in 2024. The expected decline in demand for primary and secondary education in the medium-term will impact on future Education employment trends. Demand for third level education is more varied. As well as direct transfers of young people from secondary school, demand also comes from mature students returning to education and from international students, while staff are also engaged in other activities e.g. research, which are separate to student enrolments.
  • Lifelong Learning: There is increasing recognition of the importance of lifelong learning and the need to continually update skills, or acquire new skills, to adapt to changing technology and an increasingly flexible labour market. As well as the demands of the labour market, lifelong learning is also pursued for personal development. There are regional differences however in participation in lifelong learning. In the Border region, just 5% of adults were engaged in formal education, in the West region it was 8% while it was highest in Dublin at 12%. Meeting the Government’s target of 10% of adults to be engaged in formal lifelong learning by 2020 (15% by 2025), particularly in the Border region, will require a very substantial increase in participation representing a growth opportunity for the Western Region’s Education sector.
  • Regional Skills: The Education sector is largely responsible for providing skills needed by the regional economy; skills needs which are continually changing. Provision of regional skills involves a wide range of education providers and close engagement with employers. Regional Skills Fora provide a useful structure. Changing skill demands impact on Education employment, as emerging skill needs can only be met if Education professionals with expertise in these new areas e.g. artificial intelligence, big data, are available.
  • Emerging Opportunities: The introduction of the ECCE had a very dramatic jobs impact on Pre-primary Education. This shows the potential for developing new opportunities in the Education sector, where job creation may not be the main objective but is nonetheless an important outcome. Brexit presents another potential opportunity. It is estimated that 10,000 students from the Republic of Ireland study in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK and institutions such as Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo in the Western Region, could attract some of these students. Also students from EU member states wishing to study abroad in an English-speaking country are more likely to choose Ireland following Brexit. Another opportunity is the Western Region’s growing number of retired people who represent potential new demand for Education services. Given demographic trends, increased demand for Education services from adults, including retired people, is an area of potential growth.

Download the full report ‘The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-page WDC Insights: The Education Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

Pauline White

The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region

Today we published the second in our series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Health & Care Sector, the Western Region’s third largest employer.

The full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points can be downloaded here

Health & Care is a broad sector including all those working in hospitals, nursing homes, crèches, day facilities, dental, medical and physiotherapist practices etc.  It includes professional healthcare occupations e.g. nurses, doctors, as well as clerical and administrative roles and care assistants, home carers, childminders and childcare workers.

Discussions of the Health & Care sector generally focus on provision of vital healthcare services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in Health & Care

A few of the key findings from the report on employment and enterprise in the sector include:

  • 42,027 people were employed in the Health & Care sector in the Western Region in 2016. This was 12.6% of total employment in the region, higher than the 11.1% share nationally.
  • At 15.5% of all employment, Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the country, while Leitrim (13.5%) has the second highest share nationally with Galway City and Galway County (both 13%) jointly fourth.
  • Health & Care is the largest employment sector for six out of the region’s 40 urban centres – Letterkenny, Sligo, Ballinasloe, Bearna, Strandhill and Collooney. It must be notes that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere and proximity to a large hospital is a key factor.
  • The number of people working in Health & Care in the Western Region grew by 14.8% between 2011 and 2016, close to double the growth of total employment in the region (7.5%). All western counties experienced far stronger growth in Health & Care jobs than in jobs generally
  • ‘Residential care & social work’ (nursing homes, crèches, home care) is the largest element of Health & Care in the Western Region accounting for 47.6% of all employment in the sector. ‘Hospital activities’ is next largest (37.2%).
  • 4% of all working women in the Western Region work in Health & Care and it is the largest employment sector for women in the region.
  • In 2016 there were 3,485 Health & Care enterprises registered in the Western Region; that was 6.4% of total enterprises in that year.
  • Sligo (7.8%) and Galway (7.6%) have the highest shares of enterprises in Health & Care across all counties in Ireland, again reinforcing the substantial role played by the sector in the region’s economy.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Health & Care Sector

As the third largest employer in the Western Region and an area showing strong jobs growth in recent years, the Health & Care sector plays a pivotal role in the regional economy, in addition to providing vital services. Therefore future trends in the sector will have significant regional implications.

Higher reliance on Health & Care in the Western Region:  Health & Care is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally.  It plays a critical role in providing opportunities for professional careers, especially in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. It also offers jobs at lower skill levels which are important in providing employment for all sections of the labour force. However this greater reliance on the sector in the region increases its vulnerability to any jobs decline.  While the primary policy focus for Health & Care must be on the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel role as a provider of jobs, particularly in the Western Region, should also be a factor in policy decisions.

Central role in female employment: The Health & Care sector is the largest employer of women in the Western Region and any future developments in this sector will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.

Key driver of job creation: Employment growth in Health & Care in the Western Region was almost twice the region’s average employment growth (2011-2016).  Its role may often be overlooked in debates on recent job creation trends, with more focus on exporting and high-tech businesses.  The role of Health & Care in job creation, as well as future growth opportunities in the sector, should be fully explored in national, regional and local economic development strategies.

An ageing population and growing demand:  Over 16% of the population of Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo are aged 65+ years.  Increased longevity means there is a growing share among the ‘older old’ (80+) with Roscommon (4.4%), Leitrim (4.3%) and Mayo (4.25) the highest in the state.  ‘Residential care & social work’ grew by almost a quarter in the Western Region (2011-2016).  Responding to the needs of an ageing population is one of the greatest challenges facing the Health & Care sector and significant job and growth opportunities exist in effectively meeting this challenge. The Western Region’s older age profile and high level of rurality means it is at the forefront of this growing demand and has an opportunity to develop new and innovative solutions such as learning from successful models across Europe.

Loss of rural GP practices: ‘Medical practice’ was the only Health & Care sub-sector which saw a decline in employment.  It is estimated that 50% of GPs in Leitrim will retire over the next five to seven years, 41% in Mayo and 38% in Roscommon.  If reported difficulties in finding GP replacements persist, this could mean that medical practices in neighbouring towns and villages may close.  The impact on the delivery of health services in rural areas of the loss of medical practices needs to be considered in Government policy, with options such as online delivery of GP services explored as part of the solution.

Skill shortages:  A number of skill shortages exist in the sector and healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors) accounted for a higher share of all employment permits (for non-EU residents) issued for the West and Border regions than nationally.  Care workers and childminders are occupations characterised by high turnover and some employers may be experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified care and childcare workers. Changing demographics, along with Government policy, will impact on the demand for Health & Care skills.  Initiatives to increase the number of people with qualifications in care, as well as to improve working conditions and increase its attractiveness as a job option, are important for the sector’s capacity to meet future needs.

Download the full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

 

How important is Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region?

The WDC recently published the first in a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing specific economic sectors in the Western Region and identifying key policy issues.  The first sector examined is Wholesale & Retail.  Two publications are available:

  • WDC Insights: Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region (2-page summary)
  • Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile (full report)

Download both here

Wholesale & Retail Employment in the Western Region

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 12.7% of total employment, it is the region’s second largest employment sector, after Industry.  It is somewhat less important in the region than nationally (Fig. 1).  At 13.3% of all employment, it is Ireland’s largest employer.

Among western counties, Wholesale & Retail is most significant in Mayo (14.4%) and least so in Clare (11.2%).  Two other largely rural counties (Roscommon and Donegal) had the next highest shares working in the sector in the region.  Wholesale & Retail accounted for a higher share of total employment in 2016 than a decade earlier in all western counties (except Donegal) and most notably in the most rural counties.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in Western Region and state, 2006, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census 2006: Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713

52.3% of people at work in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region are male, similar to the national average.  Males make up the majority in all western counties (at 55.2% Sligo has the greatest male majority) except Clare (50.8% female) and Galway city (50.9% female).

Wholesale & Retail Employment in western towns

Wholesale & Retail is the largest employment sector for 16 out of the region’s 40 urban centres.  There is no clearly discernible pattern in the relative importance (as a percentage of total employment) of the sector across the 40 towns, ranked by descending size (Fig. 2). Factors such as location, distance from larger urban centres, diversity of its economic profile and alternative job options combine with a town’s size to determine the role played by the sector.

Boyle (20.2%), Ballina (20%) and Castlebar (19.1%) have the highest shares working in Wholesale & Retail in the region. These, and other towns with a high share, are important rural service centres located quite some distance from larger centres and serving wide rural hinterlands.  The sector is least important for Strandhill, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Moycullen; all are towns located close to large urban centres which are likely their main retail centre.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Wholesale & Retail

The Western Region is characterised by greater self-employment in Wholesale & Retail than the national average (15.5% of total employment in the sector is self-employment compared with 12.7% in the state).  Every western county, except Galway City, also has an above average share of self-employment, meaning the sector in the region is characterised by more family or owner/ manager run businesses, likely smaller in scale.

The share of self-employment declined in all western counties (except Sligo) between 2011 and 2016. This indicates a changing composition of the sector with fewer family or owner/manager run Wholesale & Retail businesses and the expansion of multiples and chain stores with a growing share of those working in the sector being employees.

Employment in Wholesale & Retail sub-sectors

Census data on employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector is sub-divided into 17 separate activities.  For ease of presentation here these are grouped into five broad areas: Motor trades; Wholesale; Food/beverage retail; Clothing/footwear retail; and All other retail.[1]

In 2016, the largest sub-sector in the Western Region was ‘Food/beverage retail’ (Fig. 3) accounting for 27.7% of all employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector. The largest element of this is supermarkets.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘All other retail’ (e.g. furniture, computers, petrol stations etc.) followed by ‘Wholesale’.  The relative importance of the five sub-sectors differs across counties. Generally, ‘Food/beverage retail’ is the largest with close to 30% working in this sub-sector in Clare and Leitrim.  Two exceptions are Galway City and Roscommon where ‘All other retail’ is bigger.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Wholesale & Retail employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

The sub-sectors have performed differently over time. For the Western Region, ‘Motor trades’ saw the most significant jobs growth between 2011 and 2016 reflecting strong recent growth in car sales and recovery from substantial job losses during the recession. ‘Clothing/footwear retail’ was the only other area to show some growth with the other three sub-sectors declining in the region.  This is in contrast to the national picture where all sub-sectors grew except ‘Food/beverage retail’.

Key Policy Issues

Wholesale & Retail plays a critical role in the regional and rural economy as it is more widely dispersed than many other sectors. It is a highly visible sector and its performance has a major impact on the viability and vibrancy of towns.  It also provides important job options for people with lower skill levels and younger people.  There has been growing policy interest in this sector in the past number of years. Some of the key policy issues include:

  • Increased consumer mobility & rural areas: The trend of travelling to large urban centres to avail of wider retail choice presents opportunities for the region’s largest centres but may have negative consequences for small and medium-sized rural towns.
  • Town centre renewal: Towns are trying to adapt to their changing role. Retail is just one of the services they provide and for many it is declining in relative importance.  Taking a broad approach to town centre renewal is critical to making towns more attractive retail and service destinations.
  • Growth of online sales: Online sales continue to grow but the majority of spending leaks out of Ireland. While online can be seen as a threat to traditional retail, it also presents an opportunity to expand beyond local markets.
  • Declining self-employment: While self-employment remains higher in the region than elsewhere, it is declining. Fewer family or owner/manager run enterprises impacts on the local distinctiveness of the retail offering of individual towns.
  • Quality of employment and skills development: While Wholesale & Retail offers many high quality jobs, it also employs a lot of younger and lower skilled workers. Improving the quality and security of jobs in this sector is important for worker rights and also for the sector’s ability to adapt to emerging trends.

Opportunities exist to grow online activity and to restructure the retail and service offering of towns to meet changing consumer needs.  However, grasping these opportunities will depend on proactive policy to support the sector, a willingness to adapt among retailers, increased capacity for businesses to compete with larger national or global retailers and a collaborative approach to help towns adapt to their changing function.

More detailed analysis and discussion of these policy issues are available in ‘Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Pauline White

[1] Appendix 1 of the report provides data for all 17 activities.

Is e-Working on the Increase?

There has been much talk recently of an increase in e-working but does the evidence support the idea that it is more prevalent?

Technology development and in particular high speed broadband enables much office based work to be conducted remotely or away from the office. This, coupled with increased journey times to work has led to a greater demand for the opportunity for staff to work remote from the office and closer to home on a one or 2 days a week basis. Companies are reportedly increasing the availability of e-working in part as a means to retain key personnel[1].

The growth in employment opportunities in the shared or gig economy is another factor driving broadband demand to support employment growth and there is evidence that work and income generation in this sector is an important feature in rural areas such as the Western Region, see here.

Regional employers also value the ability to provide remote working opportunities, for example, Shopify recently announced the addition of 100 remote working jobs in the west of Ireland due to the presence of high-speed broadband, while Pramerica, a US multinational in Letterkenny, employ at least 20 e-workers who work from a well-established hub in Gweedore, Co. Donegal. Wayfair has also recently announced their intention to add over 200 jobs to their “Virtual” workforce in the west of Ireland (https://www.idaireland.com/newsroom/wayfair).

Benefits from e-working

Analysis for the Department of Communications measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan[2];

  • found that each house could yield a benefit of €89.00 per household per annum resulting from journey time and fuel cost savings from increased e-Working as a consequence of the availability of high speed broadband. This does not include other benefits such as carbon emissions savings etc.
  • Increased productivity is also forecast, generated from improved productivity of white collar workers living in rural areas but commuting to work in urban areas. This shows the benefit to the enterprise expressed as an increase in GVA per employee of 1.53% (€1,342) per worker, working from home or remote working on a 1 day per week basis. This does not capture benefits such as increased staff retention and more satisfied employees[3].

Demand for e-working/co-working spaces/ Hubs

The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. However the various terms are used to describe a variety of uses, only some of which may actually support the individual e-worker.

There are working spaces in the enterprise space some of which are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Hubs variously classed as innovation, enterprise or community hubs, many are focussed on start ups and incubation spaces rather than providing e-working spaces for individual employees.

In the Western Region, the success of Digital hubs in County Clare, https://www.digiclare.ie/  where there are spaces in three sites across the county, Kilrush, Miltown Malbay and Feakle suggest an increased demand for e-working spaces.  Many of these types of hubs are providing high speed telecommunications access to communities that do not yet have access and are (still) awaiting the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. Initiatives such as Grow Remote suggest e-working  is an increasing phenomenon.

 The evidence on e-Working

However as the WDC pointed out in its e-working policy briefing, the evidence on e-Working in Ireland is limited and complicated by different definitions. The most comprehensive data is collected in the Census and the same question has been asked on previous Censuses. The question asked is ‘how you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’.

According to the Census, nationally, in 2011, 4.7% (83,326) of all those at work, stated they worked mainly at or from home. By 2016 there were 94,955 persons working ‘mainly at or from home’ in April 2016, an increase of 14%. There was a 11% increase in the numbers at work over the same period, indicating an increasing prevalence of working from home.

However, the Census definition is a very broad definition in that it includes all those that are self-employed and work from home (such as childminders, home-based GPs, farmers and sole traders across all sectors) and not just e-Workers. Moreover, the Census definition only captures those employees that work from home most of the working week and excludes those who e-Work even one or two days per week, which some studies suggest is the most common pattern of e-Working.

In 2016 an IBEC survey of their membership found that 30% (110) of companies had a practice of e-Working/ home-working, on one or two days per week. At a regional level, 21% of companies in the West/North-West report a practice of e-Working one or two days per week, lower than the national average. The likelihood of e-Working among companies increases with company size so that 40% of companies with 500+ employees cite a practice of e-Working nationally. The trend is for continued growth in the practice with 31% of companies’ surveyed planning to increase their use of e-Working, with a forecast that 60% of office based workers will work remotely regularly by 2020, see here.

Examining e-Working in rural Ireland, a report commissioned by Vodafone, found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work (about 430,000 people) and one third have remote access to their company network for work purposes. These e-Workers report that e-Working means they can avoid commuting to work, typically about two days a week. An estimated 150,000 workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.

However, the same report found that a quarter of those who work from home – or nearly 100,000 adults – say their current broadband service is not sufficient to meet their requirements for e-Working, and that it limits the work-related activities they can do from home. This share rises to nearly half of those living in detached houses in the countryside. 30% report that slow and unreliable speeds currently prevent them and/or family members from working from home.

Conclusions

It is clear therefore that the incidence of e-Working is greater than the measure of ‘those working mainly at or from home’, as captured by the Census. It is also likely that the trend is generally upward.

It is also clear that the rollout of the National Broadband Plan remains a vital infrastructure investment needed to support employment growth and retention, apart from the various and widespread social benefits it can yield.

Better data is needed to capture the actual extent of e-Working. The CSO should consider revising the Census question as it currently only captures those ‘who work mainly at or from home’. Data should measure the incidence of e-Working on a one day, two days and more frequent basis. This will also provide a useful baseline for measuring trends.

[1] https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-7.pdf, https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Insights-Home-Based-Working-July-2017.pdf  IBEC HR Update Survey 2016, Issue 2.

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for

Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf

[3] See footnote 3. There is also an increase in productivity at the enterprise level – measured at 0.67% increase in GVA per small non-farm enterprise in the Intervention Area. This is as a result of productivity gains through improved businesses processes, online sales and owner managers having the flexibility of ‘always-on’ connectivity.